Upcoming Brawler Has An Unforgiving Twist

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 02/04/2018 - 20:06

Permadeath is often an integral part of roguelikes and modern indie games, mixing unforgiving gameplay with procedural level design. Developer Secret Base brings this widely used mechanic to its upcoming beat-em-up game, Streets of Red, in an especially unforgiving way.

When you die in Streets of Red, that's it. You don't have any second chances. Instead, you're forced to start all over from the beginning. Rather than grinding or leveling up, Streets of Red instead tests your skills and patience. This brawler brings the classic arcade experience home, without the ability to insert a quarter to continue. It may sound daunting, but it could also make a captivatingly tense game.

Streets of Red can be played through local co-op with friends, though it does not include online co-op. Watch the trailer below.

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Streets of Red releases for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 as of February 27.

Categories: Games

Keeping Your City Alive In A Harsh Winter

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 02/04/2018 - 17:10

Frostpunk is a survival game that has tense decision-making and an oppressive tone, similar to the creators' previous game, This War of Mine. This time, however, these mechanics are applied to the city-building sim genre, where you build a society and attempt to keep your people alive through a harsh winter. 

Frostpunk's tough decisions bring about questions of morality. For example, would you let children work in the labor force if it increased your chances of survival? Will you treat the sick and wounded, despite having scarce resources? Would you allow robots to help ease the workload off of your human settlers, even if there's a chance these mechanical helpers are unsafe?

Developer 11 Bit Studios released a developer diary recently detailing automatons, which are steampunk-like robots that can help your settlement survive in many ways. They can work consistently without needing rest, and make life easier for your people. However, your society might have varying reactions to them, and concern could grow over whether they're safe to use or not. Watch the short video below to learn more.

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Frostpunk has an interesting setup that could make for a captivating experience. I'm looking forward to when it releases for PC at the end of March.

Categories: Games

Launch Trailer Says It Won't Suck As Much As The Last One

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 02/04/2018 - 00:55

Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn is riding off the back of a name most people would rather forget. The original Shaq-Fu is a notoriously terrible brawler starring Shaquille O'Neal. In its launch trailer, A Legend Reborn makes a bold claim: That it won't suck.

From the trailer (which goes out of its way to acknowledge that the original Shaq-Fu sucked), A Legend Reborn is certainly a step up, from a production standpoint. However, it's hard to see how the game is actually put together or how the game will feel when it finally releases. Despite calling itself a launch trailer, it doesn't mention the release date, with the description saying it's hitting sometime in 2018.

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Categories: Games

Far Cry 5 DLC Includes, Mars, Zombies, Vietnam

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 16:20

Ubisoft Montreal is getting weird with Far Cry 5's post-release support. A new trailer shows off the campaign's story, in which the player helps to lead a resistance against a cult leader and his brainwashed followers in Montana. The DLC is decidedly less serious, however.

Players who pick up the game's season pass will be able to download three separate adventures. They're as follows, with the text straight from Ubisoft.

  • Hours of Darkness: Players will travel back in time to Vietnam to battle against Việt Cộng soldiers
  • Dead Living Zombies: Players will face hordes of zombies in multiple b-movie scenarios
  • Lost on Mars: Players will leave Earth behind to go toe-to-claws with Martian arachnids

The Gold Edition of the game includes Far Cry 5 and the season pass for $89.99. There's no word yet on the pricing of the individual DLC episodes.

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Players who pick up the Gold Edition or its season pass can also download the Far Cry 3 Classic Edition, which includes all of that game's single-player content. It will be available on PlayStatation 4 and Xbox One four weeks after it's available via the season pass, sometime this summer. PC players who pick up the season pass or the Far Cry 5 Gold Edition will be able to download the full version of Far Cry 3. You can see the Classic Edition in the trailer below.

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Categories: Games

Take Control Of The Genestealers In Turn-Based Battles

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 15:42

The Warhammer 40,000 universe continues to spread into the world of video games, with the announcement of a new Space Hulk title. Space Hulk: Tactics is a turn-based tactical game based on the board game, featuring a pair of campaigns and online multiplayer. 

Publisher Focus Home Interactive says the two campaigns show battle from two distinct points of view. In one, you command a squad of Blood Angels, directing their actions and upgrading them during the course of the story. In another, you take charge of a Genestealer swarm, clawing and rampaging your way through Space Marine forces. 

Online multiplayer modes let players choose Genestealers from one of four different Space Marine groups. Those include the Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Ultramarines, and Dark Angels. Players will be able to create their own maps (with customized objectives) and share them with the community.

The game is being developed by Cyanide Studio, which has previously adapted the Games Workshop board game Blood Bowl in a pair of console and PC games. It's set for a 2018 release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Categories: Games

Returning With A Fresh Coat Of Paint

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 02/02/2018 - 01:43

Atlus has released a new trailer for Dragon's Crown Pro, the 4K rerelease of Vanillaware's sprite-based 2D brawler.

The new trailer is mostly just an excuse to gawk at Vanillaware's artwork, now coming to PlayStation 4. It retains all the features of the previous version, but cleans up the art and adds a new arranged soundtrack completely recorded by a live orchestra.

Check out the new trailer below.

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Dragon's Crown Pro is out next week in Japan and will be out in the west this Spring exclusively on PS4.

Categories: Games

A Pirate Game Worth Its Salt

Game Informer News Feed - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 22:15

Xbox One’s ambitious open-world pirate game, Sea of Thieves, recently wrapped up its closed beta. Game Informer interns Jon Bowman and Robbie Key got a chance to brave Sea of Thieves’ vast waters. They pore over details of their voyage such as how they fared in running a two-man boat, how terrible a drunk accordion player sounds, and whether or not Rare’s title is worth buying at launch.

Jon –  It probably goes without saying, but this game is a lot more fun playing with buddies rather than randoms. Even if we weren’t rewarded properly ...

Robbie – Absolutely. Our two-hour tour was enough to tell me this game is meant for goofing off with friends. Though, I will say playing with a random crew can be fun. Right before we joined up, I played and talked with a guy who was actually on PC, which was a pretty surreal cross-platform moment for me. The other two didn’t have mics, but we all worked well together in our voyage. That made things a thousand times better. It makes a world of difference when you have good teammates in any co-op-heavy game, and this is no exception.

Jon – Totally. So, let’s talk about our journey when we actually connected on Saturday. What would you say was your favorite part of our quest for “The Stash of the Lame Grog Mayles,” or as I like to call it, “Two Super Salty Males Miss Out on Treasure”?

Robbie – For me, it was progressively learning how the game works by simply playing it. For games, I almost always want some kind of tutorial to at least point me in the right direction. Sea of Thieves doesn’t really have that, but it turns out to be a high point in the game because it adds a weird social element. You get to bounce knowledge off and on your crew, and you get to work together to figure out how everything works. It helps you create little, memorable moments. Oh yeah, and how could I forget when toward the end of our quest I vomited all over your face from drinking too much? In the game, not real life.

Jon – The vomit was definitely a highlight for me, too. That and drunkenly playing the accordion. Between playing distorted notes and stumbling around the room, it’s easily the creepiest and funniest way to go about doing that. But maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Should we talk about what brought us there?

Robbie – Of course! Our quest led us to three different islands, one very small and the other two huge. The time it takes to travel in between islands was a great way to learn the ropes.

Jon – Definitely. I felt that my docking skills vastly improved by the time we got back.

Robbie – Your lack of docking skills before then also helped me to become a master at plugging up holes in the ship. That’s when I realized that maintaining the ship – something I wouldn’t normally like – is actually fun to manage with a good crew. Whether it’s being high up on the ship to watch for enemy vessels, helping the captain navigate, or playing zany tunes from a hurdy-gurdy for giggles, the roles each person plays is important and makes each quest rewarding in its own ways, even more so when you score some sweet loot.

Jon – Other than learning to sail and repair the ship, finding the treasures along the way was pretty cool. I liked solving the riddles in order to find the chests and how each time we would discover a chest, more parts of the riddle would be revealed for the next one. I do wish your controller would vibrate as you approach treasure, or provide some other way to let players know when they’re getting warmer.

How about that Sorrow Chest?

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Robbie – That was a hilarious surprise! The last chest we picked up in the quest was crying the entire time, which was already strange enough. When we loaded it on the boat, we noticed the lower deck was flooding with water and tried to pour it out with our buckets, but it wouldn’t go away. After looking around the ship and realizing nothing was wrong, we were both like, “It’s the chest!” We had to keep a close ear out when it cried so we wouldn’t end up in a watery grave.

Jon – So after swashbuckling skeletons, solving riddles, playing the hurdy-gurdy underwater, and consoling the Sorrow Chest, I docked us almost perfectly back at the outpost, excited to get that crybaby out of our boat and get some gold. Unfortunately, our reward was nothing!

Robbie – I felt so swindled by that stupid mcbeardy face. The journey to get those chests was so much fun and obviously the main point of the quest – and probably all quests – but I really wanted that gold to not only buy some cool swag, but also get better quests since you acquire those by collecting treasure. And to be clear, this seemed like a bug in the game. The pirate didn’t actually steal from us.

Jon – It was an epic tale all around. And I still had enough gold to buy a tankard, which led to some pretty fun antics in the pub. I was laughing so hard while playing the accordion and struggling to stand in one place. Not to mention throwing up in each other’s faces. Probably the only instance I’d laugh about that happening.

Robbie – I was dying from laughing when our screens were suddenly covered in vomit.

Oh yeah, and what about the combat? I’m honestly not too excited about that part. It was a cookie-cutter formula when fighting skeletons. You maybe block and swipe three times to take them down. It was hardly engaging.

Jon – Yeah, I’m not the biggest fan of combat either. I think what was most jarring about it for me is that sometimes before landing the killing blow on a skeleton, the camera would pull its focus and almost lock onto that skeleton. It almost made it feel like I was playing a quick-time event with no prompts. 

That said, I’m not into this game for the combat. The things I’m taking away from our excursion are playing some shanties on the open seas, learning how to manage ships, and finding treasure. I hope combat improves, but if it doesn’t, I’m okay with it because that’s not what Sea of Thieves was about for me. 

Robbie – So, based on our journey, do you see yourself buying Sea of Thieves when it comes out?

Jon – I do. I mean, let’s face it: We did not have the best experience Sea of Thieves has to offer. Neither one of us enjoyed fighting the skeletons; we didn’t run into any rival crews, either on land or at sea; our big quest rewarded us with zero gold; and in spite of all of that, I still walked away feeling like I had a great time, ready to get back out there and find more treasure.

I think having a good crew makes all the difference. If I had gone through the same issues we faced while manning a solo ship, I would’ve left the beta with a bitter taste in my mouth. But being able to goof around with your buddies, learning to work as a unit to take care of the ship, sailing the open ocean to tunes from the hurdy-gurdy, and solving treasure riddles are the things I keep coming back to, not the shortcomings. 

What about you?

Robbie – I’m not 100 percent sure I would get this at launch, but I’m certainly more optimistic after having hands-on time. I had a blast when we played, so I can only imagine how whimsical it is to play with a four-person crew. The journey to and from each island felt like mini adventures between the quest itself. The small discoveries, like realizing you can’t play the accordion well while you’re drunk and adopting a role in running a ship, added so much to the experience in a way not many games have done.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder: Is our initial experience a honeymoon phase? These moments could easily lose their luster after a short time, and that’s partially because I fear the game is one giant fetch quest. However, if Rare keeps up the joy of discovery in hilarious and unexpected ways after a few dozen hours into the game, then Sea of Thieves is something shared-world enthusiasts could absolutely love.

Sea of Thieves launches March 20 for Xbox One and PC. For more Sea of Thieves action, check out when some of the Game Informer crew attacked a rival ship and when they reached the world's end.

Categories: Games

Night In The Woods Review

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 02/01/2018 - 17:54

Both intensely personal and widely relatable, Night in the Woods doesn’t just tell a story--it gracefully captures complex, often unpleasant feelings and experiences. From the quiet melancholy of doing nothing on a rainy day to the emotional vacuum of severe depression, I felt deeply, sometimes too deeply, while wandering through the cartoon-animal version of a small Midwestern town. Its witty writing and character development keep its crushing existential themes grounded, making Night in the Woods one of the most evocative games I’ve played in a long time.

Night in the Woods follows 20-year-old Mae Borowski--who happens to be a cat--after she drops out of college in the beginning of fall and returns to her tiny hometown of Possum Springs. She’s an angsty troublemaker with a bit of a rap sheet and a sharp tongue, and you spend her first few days back kicking around town and catching up with people, including her high school friends Bea and Gregg. A few people allude to something awful Mae did in the past, while others talk about a kid from her high school who has gone missing.

There's enough small-town curiosity in those short, early interactions to be intriguing, but there are plenty of awkward moments that keep Mae’s homecoming feeling ordinary. You can talk to an old teacher (who likes Mae despite her awful behavior) and an elderly neighbor (who considers Mae a horrible nuisance), and it feels very real, like any small talk in your hometown--just with Mae’s distinct brand of snark. These interactions both offset and highlight the mysterious elements of Possum Springs, a balance Night in the Woods masterfully strikes throughout the entire story.

You’ll spend most of your time exploring Possum Springs through light platforming and optional interactions with the same few people you want to talk to, broken up by lighthearted, simple mini-games. For most of the game, you take things day by day, and that slow drip of information bolsters the development of Mae and her friends. This structure manages to feel aimless without being purposeless; every day is similar but not the same, and there’s always something new to learn about a neighbor or a dry remark from Mae to make the same few sights feel different each time. It’s understated worldbuilding that enhances the impact of the main story--especially through a better connection to Mae, her friends, and Possum Springs as a whole.

Many days end with a choice of activity, like going to the mall with one childhood friend or "doing crimes" with another. This is when a lot of the bigger--and stranger--events take place. Sometimes things are lighthearted, like sneaking into an abandoned grocery store just for the fun of it, but there are also serious talks about past mistakes or what exactly Mae is doing with her life. Watching her struggle to articulate her problems and awkwardly dodge questions about college is hard--especially if you’ve ever been in a similar position. Combined with melancholic music, a lot of Night in the Woods evokes the feeling of lying in bed all day, despondent and paralyzed by indecision and uncertainty.

Initially, I had an incredibly hard time getting through more than a day without having to step away from the game for a bit. At 20 I was in a bad place with both school and depression, much like Mae, and playing felt more like looking in a very shameful mirror. But there’s enough going on in Possum Springs to distract from that early-20s, nearly drowning feeling, and instead of closing my game, I looked forward to the respite of mini-games and visiting friends at work, both for Mae’s sake and for mine.

I began checking every corner of town hoping to find the smallest or silliest of moments, and I often got them. I shoplifted pretzels (in a red-light, green-light style mini-game) for baby rats just to see what would happen if I fed them, and I listened to a neighbor’s dumb poetry every day because she could easily have been someone I know in real life. At the center of Night in the Woods is a story about a young adult who has gone numb, and those experiences on the periphery are what she--and anyone who’s lived through an emotional void--does to feel anything at all.

The unfortunate reality is that finicky controls, and even some scenes that feel forced, occasionally interrupt Night in the Woods’ evocative atmosphere. More than one scene requires you to complete simple platforming to proceed, for example; sometimes it’s unnecessarily hard to execute thanks to poorly placed platforms, and in general, having a hard objective is at odds with a game that is otherwise not really gamified.

At the center of Night in the Woods is a story about a young adult who has gone numb, and those experiences on the periphery are what she--and anyone who’s lived through an emotional void--does to feel anything at all.

Night in the Woods does have a game-within-a-game: a dungeon-crawler called Demontower that you can play on Mae’s computer. It’s another good distraction--I played it right before having Mae go to bed, much like I would in real life--and it’s a throwback to the kinds of games you might have put a lot of hours into in the mid-2000s. As a cute detail, you can pick up where Mae apparently left off a decade earlier (and if you don’t like Demontower, you can just go on the computer to IM your friends after a night out).

By the third and final act of the game, I had grown seriously attached to Mae and her crew of deeply flawed but charming weirdos. Their experiences in a struggling, dead-end town are relatable even if you’re nothing like them--and that’s what gives Night in the Woods its emotional impact.

From beginning to end to epilogue, Night in the Woods is ultimately open to individual interpretation. How you relate to it depends on your own experiences and choices, including Mae’s dialogue and who you decide to spend time with. Though its charming and angsty story works well on its own merits, it’s special because of how it prioritizes conveying emotion over telling a straight narrative.

Editor's note: This review has been updated to reflect our time with the Nintendo Switch version of the game. -- February 1, 2018

Categories: Games

OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes Review: Pulling Punches

Gamespot News Feed - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 17:00

With an extensive roster of quirky characters and a world that's as colorful as it is joyful, the OK K.O.! universe is the perfect playground for a video game adaptation. But while OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes perfectly captures the show's tone and aesthetic in its own way, it is, unfortunately, let down by repetitive quests and shallow mechanics.

You play as a young boy named K.O. who aspires to be the world's greatest hero. He is aided in his journey by his delightful group of friends (such as the cool-as-ice Enid, the slacker Radicles, and the tough-as-nails Mr. Gar) who all hang out and work with him at the Lakewood Strip Mall. But when the evil Lord Boxman from across the street threatens to take down Lakewood by resetting every hero's POW card (which depicts their "hero levels") to zero, it's up to K.O. to help restore everyone's levels by beating up an endless factory line of robots. Let's Play Heroes is primarily a beat-'em-up with some simple RPG elements, such as a basic leveling system and side-quests, sprinkled in. While this helps keep the game from getting too mundane, it only partially succeeds in alleviating the tedium.

The game's beat-'em-up combat is simple but has enough variety to keep things engaging. Attacks and dodges are performed with single button presses, and advanced moves involve a few more directional changes but nothing too tricky to master. Like most beat-'em-up games, there are also a large number of super techniques, called Powie Zowies, available to unlock. As you complete each stage, you earn experience points that go towards leveling up your Strength, Agility, or Cool stats. With three attributes, there might have been potential to shape K.O. to your desired playstyle, but disappointingly, the stats only serve as a way to keep advanced moves locked until you reach certain levels.

Each enemy robot has its own unique skillset, and some battle stages have item crates containing useful weapons. These factors encourage some strategic thinking, but the limited number of enemy types and the simplistic AI means that you can win almost every battle in the same manner with the same attacks. These robot fights only become remotely challenging during boss battles, but these are few and far between.

When you are not battling robots, the rest of Let's Play Heroes involves exploring Lakewood Strip Mall and talking to the various side characters to unlock their Powie Zowies via simple side-quests. Unfortunately, most of your options are either long-winded fetch quests or battles against robots, quickly turning these tasks into a grind. The game falls into a tedious pattern of talk, fetch item and/or fight, and talk again. There are a few mini-games available, but they are generally nothing more than reskinned or tweaked versions of the game's many robot battles.

The repetitiveness also does nothing to help the game's poor pacing. Despite the high-stakes story (for the OK K.O.! universe), Let's Play Heroes plays out like a series of meandering vignettes that mostly ignore the overarching storyline, not unlike the narrative structure of the show. While that approach may work in TV, the result is a game with too much padding and little in the way of forward momentum.

What Let's Play Heroes lacks in narrative urgency and mechanical depth, it almost makes up for in its presentation. Rather than imitate the show's simple presentation, like what The Fractured But Whole did with South Park, OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes features its own colorful interpretation of the characters and universe. In contrast to the show's static look, the game's art style is dynamic and rich in detail yet simple enough to capture the tone of the source material.

Complementing the eye-pleasing visuals is the excellent audio design, notably the soundtrack and voice acting. Each background track feels entirely in tune with the show’s whimsical tone, right down to K.O.’s adorable beatboxing. The voice cast from the show lends their talent to the game, giving Let’s Play Heroes a wonderful sense of familiarity and comfort. Writing and characterization are also top notch, and perfectly capture the quirky nature of the show. Witty one-liners, layered jokes, and meta gags are generously sprinkled throughout the game, though these sadly start to run out towards the final act. All the characters in Let's Play Heroes are well-realized, with nearly every hero and villain given enough time to shine in their interactions with K.O., all while staying faithful to their TV counterparts. It goes a long way in not only pleasing long-time fans, but also establishing character relationships and dynamics for those unfamiliar.

There is also an additional payoff for those who watch the show religiously, though it's something may frustrate newcomers: The game features a special vending machine that allows you to input secret hidden codes found within episodes of the show in exchange for POW cards that are otherwise unobtainable. While this kind of locked content is disconcerting, Let’s Play Heroes’ simplistic fighting system renders this almost unnecessary. The fact that you can easily finish the game without unlocking these hidden POW cards means the mechanic ultimately doesn’t have a significant effect on the overall experience, though it may frustrate those who want to collect every POW card in the game.

As far as adaptations go, OK K.O.! Let's Play Heroes looks and sounds fantastic in a way that is distinct yet faithful to the source material. But the shallow mechanics, the repetitiveness of the gameplay loop, and narrative pacing issues prevent the game from being a rousing knockout.

Categories: Games

Latest Trailer Showcases The Co-Op Chaos

Game Informer News Feed - Wed, 01/31/2018 - 16:30

Atlus is bringing Vanillaware's brawler Dragon's Crown to the PlayStation 4 this spring. The game features arcade-style action with support for up to four players. Curious about how it looks with a full party? You're in luck! A new trailer for the game highlights the co-op experience.

Your party can include up to four players, either locally, online, or in any combination. Regardless of how your party is composed, you can expect chaotic, screen-filling action.

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Categories: Games

Kiryu Assembles His Dream Team In New Clan-Creator Video

Game Informer News Feed - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 16:13

Kazuma Kiryu brings people together, whether it's helping random couples with their love troubles, smoothing out relationships between criminals, or giving Yakuza players a common appreciation for the long-running series. Yakuza 6 gives the hero a new way to unite people, with the introduction of a clan-creator minigame. Think of it as a slightly more violent version of the series' hostess clubs. OK, it's a lot more violent.

Kiryu will be able to recruit a variety of different foot soldiers for his clan, which can be leveled up through battles. Those battles are fairly ambitious affairs, featuring dueling teams of up to a dozen combatants each. Players assume the role of battle tactician, giving commands to Kiryu's men and helping them take on enemies – including the Six Lunatics. You can see the lunatics and more in the video below.

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Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is coming to North American PlayStation 4s on March 20.

Categories: Games

Shadow Of The Colossus Review: A Somber Masterpiece

Gamespot News Feed - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 08:01

2005's Shadow of the Colossus was a revelation, a game whose gorgeous aesthetic and reserved tone were, at the time, undeniably distinct. Together with its unique take on boss encounters and a stirring soundtrack, those aspects made the game a defining title of the PlayStation 2 era. But it was also a game infamous for its technical issues: most notably, the ambitious design of the titular colossi meant the game would often suffer from a choppy, aggravating framerate.

A 2011 HD remaster for the PlayStation 3 alleviated these problems, but now, with 2018's Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4, Bluepoint Games has completely rebuilt every aspect of the game's world while leaving the underlying structure and mechanics intact, a move which not only rejuvenates the game visually but uncategorically intensifies the utter majesty of this extraordinary experience.

Shadow of the Colossus takes place in an ancient world, where young warrior Wander and his horse Agro transport a deceased loved one to a forbidden, sealed land. With a mythical sword and an ordinary bow, Wander hopes to take advantage of a fable that suggests something in this isolated province has the means to bring back the dead. There, he encounters an omnipresent entity who compels him to destroy sixteen colossi scattered throughout the territory in order to enable his wish.

If you've already played a previous version of Shadow of the Colossus, you'll find that Bluepoint's rendition feels much the same, barring some minor differences in controller mapping, some subtle quality-of-life tweaks, and a new Easter egg. The locations of each colossus and the methods of defeating them remain the same, as do the locations of every white-tailed lizard and fruit collectible. The weight and movement physics of Wander and Agro feel unchanged, and New Game+ rewards are identical.

But the impact of the completely rebuilt world is transcendent. This is a world that is geographically as you remember, but one that still astounds you as if seeing it for the first time. Highly detailed environment modeling in tandem with impressive light and shadow simulation bring amazing life to the game's breathtaking biomes. Lucious forests are densely packed with majestic tall trees and twisting foliage, dappled beautifully with soft rays of sunlight. Vast, arid deserts feel hauntingly desolate as you try and sight somber ruins through a wispy sandstorm. Even the simple sight of mountainous crags and cliff faces is impressive, with shadows acutely defining their rocky surfaces, making them pop ominously. Every time you crest a hill, emerge from a crevice, or change your perspective, the landscape will be a sight worthy of pause.

The increased fidelity of the reconstructed colossi is just as spectacular, and the mere sight of one in this version of the game is even more awe-inspiring than it is in your memory. Each foe--some small and nimble, the rest impossibly titanic and overbearing--is a terrifying beast of stone, fur, and leather. That fur is now noticeably more dense and luscious, and hanging onto it for dear life as your enemy tries to violently shake you off feels even more intense. These moments are enhanced by the detail of the distant environment that lies far beneath you when on top of a colossus, combined with motion effects that amplify the sense of danger at these dizzying heights. The first time I mounted a flying colossus in this version of the game, I could feel my chest wrench as I squeezed my controller to hold onto its wing for dear life while it soared, flapping wildly through the air. It was exhilarating.

Playing on a PS4 Pro offers you the ability to further enhance visual fidelity via high dynamic range color, as well as the choice between two different graphical options with different priorities. Cinematic mode enables 4K resolutions, as well as allowing for impressive downsampling (that is, scaling down a higher-resolution image) for 1080p displays at a targeted 30fps. Performance mode provides less impressive graphical quality but maintains a smoother frame rate targeting 60fps. In my experience, I preferred the crisper image offered in Cinematic mode--once you realise you can recognise the definition between each individual blade of grass, it's hard to let that go. However, the visual quality offered by both modes still enhances the experience of the game in ways previously mentioned, especially for those whose last memory of it was suffering through sub-30fps framerate issues on the original PS2 release.

The visual reconstruction doesn't detract from what makes Shadow of the Colossus great, and the game's holistic and understated direction still comes through strongly: its muted colors, cinematic camera angles, and stark absence of music while exploring the world still evoke a poignant tone of desolation and solitude. The world's large forsaken landscape doesn't feel bereft of things to do, because simply riding through it and enjoying at the majesty of the land, accompanied only by the sound of Agro's hooves scraping against the earth, is a meditative experience.

Fighting a colossus is still a grand, solemn, and tense challenge that is exhilarating to overcome. The impassioned orchestral soundtrack heightens the pressure of every maneuver: Deciphering a method of mounting your impossibly enormous enemy, clambering to reach their vulnerabilities as they try to fling you off, and driving your sword into their flesh. Every moment of a colossus battle is thrilling to execute and witness, whether you're doing it for the first time, or the fifteenth time in a post-game time trial.

While the passing of twelve years hasn't affected the overall quality of Shadow of the Colossus, there are two technical annoyances that persist and remind you of a bygone era. The third-person camera system does not clip through world objects, so it becomes erratic and troublesome to adjust when moving Wander through enclosed spaces, or near a solid object. Additionally, the game's unforgiving climbing system, which asks you to jump with the X button and grasp onto a ledge or surface with the R2 trigger, is occasionally temperamental in certain situations; there may be times when contact with a ledge may not correctly register even though you may have been holding R2 well in advance and correctly estimated the distance needed for your jump. However, both of these issues affect only a small amount of your time with the game and should not be considered a significant strike against the whole. In the case of the climbing system, it's a quirk that's easy to come to peace with because of how absolutely essential the mechanic is to creating the rousing pressure and suspense of colossus encounters.

Shadow of the Colossus is a tremendous journey, and one well worth taking and retaking. The visual overhaul is stunning, thoroughly enhancing every facet of Wander and Agro's excellent adventure. Galloping through the tranquil world is always breathtaking; felling a monumental colossus is always humbling. Shadow of the Colossus is a beautiful reconstruction of an already exceptional title. It continues to be a modern classic and is an extraordinary game that everyone must experience.

Categories: Games

Subnautica Review: A Water Wonderland

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 21:00

Decades after Jaws cemented our cultural fear of the deep ocean, Subnautica emerges from Steam Early Access to fuel a new breed of underwater nightmares. This first-person survival epic by Unknown Worlds Entertainment dumps you into the water with not a great white shark to watch out for, but an entire alien world full of monstrosities ready and able to swallow you whole. Subnautica expands into an intense and challenging game that maintains considerable beauty and mystique across its massive environments. It's so magical and otherworldly that it practically pains you to stop playing, even when you're filled with dread.

Despite its scale and demanding ecosystem, Subnautica is one of the most approachable open-world survival games around. Where most of this sort have a steep difficulty curve to climb, this underwater alien world is easy to get into. The solo-only campaign begins when your ship crashes onto a flooded planet. You awaken, floating in your pod with only the fiery ruin of your former starship to break up the monotony of the ocean that rolls on endlessly to all points of the horizon.

From here, your goal is a simple one--survive, discover what else is on this world, and do your best to find a way off of it. Thankfully, you come from a Star Trek-style federation. Your lifepod is tricked out with a fabricator, a nifty wall-mounted device that can make pretty much anything, provided you feed it the necessary raw materials. Bladderfish are needed right away to provide potable water, while smaller finned creatures are best for fast frying and eating.

Compared to other survival games, gathering up items is easy. Want to see what mineral is hiding in that rock? Punch it or whack it once or twice with whatever you have in your hand. Need to cut plants or coral? Right-click to slash with your knife. Considering other survival games force you to do things like bash your fists bloody against trees to collect wood, you get by pretty easy here, and the entire game is better for it.

Because the crash has corrupted a lot of your databank, you also have to find and scan fragments and crack open data boxes scattered across the ocean floor before you can build bits of technology. You can even fabricate additional fabricators that make components for vehicles like the zippy Seaglide or Seamoth mini-sub, and even seabases straight out of Octopussy. These are not only cool to look at, but useful in the long run, with '70s-style observation bubbles, solar panels, and high-tech hardware to refine and manage your supplies.

Of course, there are still some significant challenges here. While you start off in the appropriately named Safe Shallows, home to mostly friendly fish and readily available materials required to craft basic items like swim fins and oxygen tanks, you soon need to venture farther afield. The world consists of many biomes, distinct geographical regions with their own flora and fauna. Most of the better goodies in the game come from more extreme and far away places, which forces you to steadily upgrade your equipment to handle greater depths and highly aggressive sea life that look more like monsters of myth than fish at your local aquarium.

...there is a real push-pull dynamic at large that makes you feel like you're constantly achieving one new goal after another.

Aggressive creatures are a continual presence. You have to respect them and keep your distance, knowing what they can do. With that said, creatures are not unduly punishing. Running into something aggressive doesn't result in instant death. You'll likely die far more often as the result of drowning during an exploration dive, or starving to death because you took too long during an expedition.

Diving into wrecks makes for the most intense moments in the game, especially when you're at significant depths. Bigger wrecks almost always seem to be in the neighborhood of the nastiest monsters on the planet, which means you need to sneak in and out. Caves are almost as nerve-wracking and contain an even stronger likelihood of drowning due to their labyrinthine nature. Further investigation rewards you with rarer natural resources like diamonds, nickel ore, and Blood Oil. Caves aren't as enjoyable to explore as wrecks, though, because the sheer danger makes them too risky to have much fun in. At least the game eventually allows you to craft things like a compass and the pathfinder tool that lets you lay down a trail of electronic breadcrumbs.

While routine scavenger hunts for more basic survival needs can grow routine (though you can turn off the need to eat and drink at the start of a game--or go in the other direction and turn on a hardcore permadeath mode), there is a real push-pull dynamic at large that makes you feel like you're constantly achieving one new goal after another. Even something as simple as grabbing a dozen or so bladderfish and peepers and turning them into bottles of water and salted fish snacks can be rewarding, because you know those supplies are essential for extended exploration missions.

Your development as a scavenger is nudged along by a story that loosely guides your exploration. Getting the lifepod radio repaired reveals a number of distress calls from other lifepods that went down along with you, along with coordinates of their current or approximate locations. This even opens up a possible rescue attempt, which leads to another interesting part of the planet. Venturing to these locales uncovers an unexpectedly deep story, but it also moves you to various locations where you find vital resources at just the right time. Progress moves quickly if you follow the story, though this is still a huge game that requires a lot of time, patience, and exploration.

Some patience is also required when you bump into the game's rare technical issues. Loading save files takes a very long time, there are regular sound glitches where audio vanishes while leaving the water, and crashes can occur when loading your save. Given that you're only allowed a single save slot per campaign, these moments are stressful, though thankfully no saves were lost during our time with the game.

Subnautica's story, scares, and beautifully rendered underwater setting make it one of the most fascinating survival games around. You will always have to grind away to a certain extent to gather necessary resources, but the overall experience is both accessible and refined. Subnautica may not make you eager to get back to the beach this summer, but right now there is no better virtual way to experience the beauty, and the terror, of the deep blue sea.

Categories: Games

New Trailer Introduces Nakoruru And Goes In On Fanservice

Game Informer News Feed - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 18:47

A new SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy trailer released at the conclusion of EVO Japan sets up the story and shows off the customization menu, as well as introducing Nakoruru into the fold.

The new trailer establishes that the cast of SNK heroines were called to a castle by an unseen and almost certainly evil force and are now battling it out for some reason in cow bikinis and vampire costumes. The trailer also does a fairly deep dive into the customization menu and what appears to be a model viewer with a security camera filter.

You can check out the trailer below. SNK Heroines Tag Team Frenzy is releasing on Switch and PlayStation 4 this summer.

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Categories: Games

Lost Sphear Review

Gamespot News Feed - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 15:00

Lost Sphear, like its predecessor I Am Setsuna, wants to remind you of the 16-bit RPGs that were so beloved in the '90s. Developer Tokyo RPG Factory has succeeded in terms of the basic look and mechanics, but after two games, it's starting to feel like the studio's name is intended more literally than we initially realised. Lost Sphear isn't a bad game by any stretch; it does some genuinely interesting things with its combat system, but everything surrounding that often feels like something that came off a factory assembly line.

Lost Sphear follows Kanata, a young man who sets out on an adventure with his two childhood friends, Lumina and Locke--along with Van, a stranger that the team adopts with very little vetting or discussion--after a calamity strikes their hometown. It soon becomes clear that Kanata is the key to solving a worldwide epidemic of people and places becoming "lost," meaning that they've disappeared, leaving behind a sparkly white silhouette. He and he alone can restore the lost thanks to his special, mysterious ability to compile and restore memories, and as whole chunks of the world disappear Kanata learns more about the disaster and why he alone can turn it around. This likely sounds familiar, because it's hitting on the same broad tropes that many RPGs have in the past. This is a standard "chosen one" story, albeit one that gets fairly bogged down in game-specific terminology. You and your slowly-expanding crew of fighters travel around an overworld map straight out of the SNES days, discovering new towns and smacking down a variety of monsters. Structurally, there's nothing here you haven't seen before if you're even a casual fan of RPGs.

Lost Sphear's battle system--despite being very directly based on Chrono Trigger's Active Time Battle system--has a stronger sense of craft to it than the story does. Each member of your team has access to unique weapons and moves, with no overlap, and by visiting the magic consortiums and blacksmiths in each town you can equip them with all sorts of abilities. Over time, you can play around with the "momentum" system--which lets you add buffs and bonuses to certain abilities that can be triggered during battles--and "sublimation," which lets you build up passive effects on these abilities over time. Each attack has its own area of effect, and each character also has access to a "vulcosuit," which lets them suit up in a mech during battle to access more powerful attacks. Figuring out strong attack combinations, and which attacks to assign which momentum bonuses, is satisfying, and while the game throws a lot of terminology at you as more combat abilities unlock, it never feels overwhelming.

You also have full control of your movement when each character's turn rolls around, meaning that you can choose where to place them. You might position someone who attacks from ranged distances in a safe spot behind the rest of the party, or spend ages trying to find a pixel-perfect position that will let one character's attack hit two enemies instead of one. This means that you have a lot of control over your placement on the battlefield and by playing strategically you have the potential to execute attacks that will let you deal a lot of damage at once. The strategic depth imbued into these systems means that even the most basic battles, the ones you can't possibly lose, remain enjoyable. Over time you can build up a huge number of passive buffs by restoring lost parts of the overworld map with Katana's powers, meaning that diligent players will have the opportunity to really boost their effectiveness in combat.

Some abilities are fundamentally much more useful than others, but harsh cooldown times and resource penalties mean that, in a long battle, you can’t spam your strongest attacks over and over. But while the system behind combat is great, most enemies will go down quickly if you just throw your biggest attacks at them without worrying too much about being strategic. I only died once outside of a boss fight, but when the bosses arrived, I never knew what to expect. Playing on normal, some were a cakewalk, while others were a brutal slog that the game had in no way prepared me for. Bosses will throw out incredibly cheap tricks, often right at the very beginning of the fight--instant-death attacks, sleep powders that put your entire team out of action for a long time, punishing area-of-effect attacks that trigger upon the boss' death, you name it. Thankfully, you can change the difficulty at any time if you get frustrated and don’t want to take a long trek back to the nearest town to buy new abilities and fortify your weapons in the hope of becoming strong enough to endure their attacks. And Lost Sphear not only allows you to quick save, but it signposts boss fights with save points--modern concessions that you'll likely be thankful for.

Outside of combat, working through Lost Sphear's campaign can often feel like busywork. It gets bogged down in glorified fetch quests for long periods of time, sending you pinging between different points on the map to take in unexciting dialogue exchanges. There are very few formal side quests with dialogue and objectives, and while there's quite a bit you could do on the map there's not much incentive to strive for 100% unless you're committed to finishing it on Hard.

For a while Lost Sphear feels aimless and flabby--it takes a while for an identifiable villain to emerge, and many early plot threads drop by the wayside as new, less interesting conflicts and dramas pop up. There's a lot of exposition, and the plot justifications for what you must do next often feel flimsy or forced. But lore is built up over time, and the plot pulls a neat trick on the player later on, subverting expectations and eventually connecting various dangling threads across the final act. It builds to a satisfying conclusion, albeit one weakened by uninteresting characters.

Lost Sphear also has an odd aesthetic to it. It has the look of an older portable title that has received an HD remake, with some pleasant scenes and locations offset somewhat by numerous repeated assets, bland textures, and dull interiors. Every now and then there will be a moment of beauty--a lovely vista, a quaint village--but other sections of feel like placeholders, too empty and boring to feel like real places. The character designs are indistinct, and the lack of close-ups or FMV cutscenes mean that it's hard to get a sense of personality from them. Tomoki Miyoshi's score is a solid fit for the events that unfold, but is lacking in earworms and unique boss themes.

It feels like the main purpose of Lost Sphear is to remind you of your favourites of the genre, rather than to join their company. Its enjoyable combat system and late-game revelations are satisfying, but it's hard to pin down its identity or to point towards anything that really makes it stand out beyond its ability to provoke nostalgia. For some players, that may be enough, but for others, the best thing about Lost Sphear might be that it inspires you to replay Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI.

Categories: Games

A Stylish RPG Involving Pirates And Mercenaries

Game Informer News Feed - Sun, 01/28/2018 - 19:00

Developer Klei Entertainment has always had a knack for style, with games like Don't Starve and Invisible, Inc. At last year's E3, Klei showed off its newest project, Griftlands, that once again has a unique look and premise.

Griftlands is a sci-fi RPG that its developers describe as a "pirate/mercenary sandbox," where you attempt to make a fortune for yourself. You control a group of mercenaries who have several different quest lines, and Klei explains that the world will mold and dynamically change depending on your actions. As for battles, these are played out in a turn-based fashion with a focus on subduing your enemies rather than outright killing them.

Much of Griftlands revolves around its economy, and on its Steam page, it says that "everything is negotiable," including money, loyalty, and morality. Below, you can watch its reveal trailer, which premiered at last year's E3 at the PC Gaming Show.

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Griftlands releases for PC at some point this year. No fixed release date has been revealed just yet.

Categories: Games

UFC 3 Review In Progress

Gamespot News Feed - Sat, 01/27/2018 - 18:00

EA Sports UFC 3 begins with a slick video package charting the meteoric rise to stardom of cover athlete Conor McGregor. The Notorious Irishman is the ideal poster boy for UFC 3's new G.O.A.T. Career Mode, as it focuses not just on your performances inside the octagon, but on your propensity for drumming up hype and promoting fights outside of it--something the high-powered southpaw has arguably mastered. McGregor's world class striking also serves as a perfect introduction to UFC 3's wince-inducing action, as you're thrust into a tutorialized fantasy matchup against interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.

UFC 3 hits the ground running with this match-that-could've-been, hastily showcasing a plethora of improvements to its stand-up game, from an impressive suite of fluid new animations to an intuitive new control scheme that emphasises maneuverability. Much like previous entries in the series, developer EA Canada continues to excel at stand and bang slugfests--as fists fly, skin lacerates, and the canvas adopts a crimson hue--but falters when the action is dragged down to the ground.

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UFC 3's grappling remains unchanged from its predecessor--utilizing the right stick for transitioning into and out of various positions--and is too cumbersome and binary to ever be particularly enjoyable. Submissions fall into the same category, too. The default four-quadrant mini game feels disconnected from what's happening on screen, while a simplified alternative that consists of mindless button mashing also fails to capture the intricacies of these bone-breaking holds. Not to mention how overpowered each arm bar and gogoplata is in the hands of the AI.

Fortunately, the stand-up game's redefined excellence does an admirable job of distracting from these flaws. Almost every aspect of UFC 3's striking has been completely redesigned, placing much more significance on movement, spacing, and momentum. With both fighters standing toe-to-toe, there's a palpable sense of weight to the way you move around the octagon, and a responsiveness to each blow and crucial head bob that allows you to act just as fast as you can think--reaction times notwithstanding.

The new control scheme does still require a certain degree of finger gymnastics in order to perform particular techniques, but by moving each offensive move to the face and shoulder buttons, the right stick is freed up to be used exclusively for ducking and weaving, while the left stick is dedicated entirely to movement, allowing you to throw strikes and move at the same time. This sounds like a simple change on the surface, but it's a crucial deviation that opens up myriad possibilities, and substantially increases the kinetic dynamism of each fight. Suddenly you can barrel forward like a freight train to apply pressure; retreat out of danger with defensive jabs to keep your opponent at bay; and laterally weave to a fighter's weak side while simultaneously throwing a dangerous uppercut to their unsuspecting jaw. It's a game changer, and beautifully complements UFC 3's newfound focus on momentum and the risk versus reward at play with each strike.

Being mindful of spacing becomes a key attribute as you look to get in and out of your opponent's striking range without sustaining damage. Stamina management also plays a crucial role, as repeated strikes lose power as your stamina fades to discourage aggressive players from their worst tendencies. You have to be smarter and more precise with each blow; reading your opponent's movement, using feints to throw off their timing, and slipping into counterattacks to punish any misguided swings. All of this results in a game that adopts a more measured pace than its predecessors, and should suit those who approach each fight with nuance and tactical astuteness.

Almost every aspect of UFC 3's striking has been completely redesigned, placing much more significance on movement, spacing, and momentum

Once you're comfortable in the octagon, the aforementioned G.O.A.T. Career Mode is on-hand to test you against the world's greatest fighters. With a few fights on the regional circuit under your belt, it doesn't take long until you impress Dana White enough to earn a UFC contract and can begin climbing up the ranks for a shot at a championship. It's a familiar setup, but one that differentiates from its contemporaries by embracing the promotional aspect of the sport and focusing on time management above all else. You start the run up to each fight by signing up to a gym that specialises in a specific fighting discipline, and can then choose to train and improve your attributes, learn new moves and perks, spar with a training partner who's emulating your upcoming opponent, or promote your next fight to drum up hype and attract more fans to your brand.

This balance between performance and promotion is an interesting concept, and it strips away a lot of the monotony these career modes often suffer from. Improving your attributes simply boils down to selecting which areas you want to develop, with each activity eating into that weeks designated time allotment. Promotion works much the same way as you're given the option to generate hype for your next fight by, say, predicting the finish on social media, attending autograph signings, or even taking a page out of Demetrious Johnson's book by streaming some video games. There are no tedious mini-games revolving around punching bags and speed balls, and those that are included are incredibly brief with immediate rewards in the shape of new moves and perks. The whole thing is so streamlined it's almost negligible, ensuring you spend less time staring at menus between each fight, which is a good thing.

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Elsewhere, Ultimate Team returns and continues to be a curious addition to the world of mixed martial arts. With one-on-one fights on the agenda, UFC 3's particular flavour of Ultimate Team lacks the appeal of concocting your own unstoppable dream team. Instead, card packs are bundled with not just fighters, but tiered moves, perks, and bonuses as well, essentially painting each fighter as blank canvases for you to outfit with whatever moves you choose. It's a fascinating idea, and there are a number of single and multiplayer modes for you to unleash your Frankenstein's monster on. Microtransactions are still a factor, letting you spend real-world money on premium card packs, but there's enough in-game money to be earned from various fights and challenges that paying real money never seems necessary. Time will tell whether this changes once you fancy testing your mettle at high-level Ultimate Team play.

Of course, a lot of UFC 3's success will depend on the quality of servers that aren't currently populated enough to deliver a final verdict on. As it stands, EA Sports UFC 3 is a tense, exciting, and dynamic recreation of the stand and bang aspect of mixed martial arts. There's a fluidity to the way it moves, and a satisfying feel and unpredictability to the way fights can unfold that demands your engagement. The grappling still needs plenty of work, and one would hope this is something EA Canada addresses in the next iteration; yet these shortcomings become easier to overlook because of the accomplishment of its redefined striking. When it comes to the art of combat, few sports titles do it better.

Editor's note: Our review of UFC 3 will remain a review in progress until we've had adequate time to test multiplayer servers after the game's release on Feb. 2, 2018.

Categories: Games

Out Of The Park Baseball 19 Announced With New Online Mode

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 18:54

Spring is just around the corner, and Out of the Park Developments has just announced Out of the Park Baseball 19, which is not only evolving the MLB-licensed baseball simulation series you know and love, but is adding a new online fantasy feature after launch.

The game comes out on March 22 (PC, Mac, Linux) and you can get it at 10 percent off for $35.99 if you pre-order it on the OOTP website. Pre-ordering also lets you play it early on March 19.

While at launch players can dive in and control all aspects of their clubs – as well as play in custom tournaments and the Arizona Fall League, among many other options – after launch they can enjoy this year's new mode: Perfect Team. This is a card-based fantasy sports mode similar to a Diamond Dynasty (MLB The Show) or Ultimate Team (EA Sports). The standalone mode features microtransactions like others of its ilk, but it can be played with no money spent as well. An open beta in the spring is planned for Perfect Team with a summer release.

We'll have more on this new mode as well as the rest of the game in an upcoming installment of The Sports Desk.

Here are the game's preliminary list of features (text from OOTP Developments):

  • New 3D stadiums and player models with improved on-field movements, including running, sliding, jumping, and throwing.
  • New in-game screen design for an optimized virtual dugout.
  • 2018 roster sets with all Opening Day MLB rosters, as well as the complete minor league system from Triple-A to rookie leagues as well as the Arizona Fall League. All major league (and over a thousand minor league) player ratings will be based on the popular ZiPS player projection system. The 8 international leagues, as well as independent minor leagues in the U.S., also return this year with accurate rosters.
  • Rewritten scouting reports that give a more detailed and realistic look at players.
  • New tournament modes! Create a standalone tournament bracket and draw any teams in history into it. The possibilities are endless!
  • Ultra-realistic AI roster management and in-game decisions.
  • A reworked ratings module.
  • User voting for end-of-season awards
  • Many more improvements, including: 
    • Redesigned interface, with the ability to choose between 6 different fonts
    • 800 custom team logos for fictional leagues
    • Improved Manager Home screen, with a more customizable layout and new widget options
    • A new stat – RA9-WAR (WAR based on runs allowed) – for pitchers
    • Delayed substitutions for injured players
    • And more to be announced prior to release

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Categories: Games

Hands-On With The Action-RPG Remake

Game Informer News Feed - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 03:00

The original Secret of Mana is a game I hold near and dear to my heart. The original SNES title is a classic, a tale of a boy on an epic, world-saving adventure after finding a sword that resonates within his mind. It was also one of my first action RPG titles and the idea that this full-blown narrative game could be played cooperatively blew me away. Now, with Square-Enix remaking the game for modern hardware, I got hands-on time to see if the remake could invoke the same feelings of discovery and disbelief in me.

The brief bit I got to play involved taking heroes Randi, Primm, and Popoi to the Moon Palace. Randi was stocked to the brim with different weapons to try out, while the rest of the party had their magic spells at the ready. New inventory and weapon wheel changes allow for a faster user interface, making accessing those weapons and spells far easier.

Individual items, including equipment, can also now be placed as hotkeys on the L1 or R1 buttons on the PlayStation 4 controller. It helps make dealing with multiple enemies less stressful, as well as lessening the repetitiveness of the combat. Spells can also be placed there for quick buffs and fast cooperative techniques with your party.

The developers are expanding the game's story with new scenes and story sequences, with the narrative as a whole now furnished with voice acting for the first time. The dialogue can be switched between both English and Japanese voice acting in the menu, ensuring that fans can pick and choose the type that most appeals to them.

The dungeon I was able to go through was a simple trek to find the Moon spirit, Luna. The fairly simple trek involved wandering through a void within the temple searching for a crystal artifact. Upon finding it, an analysis spell had to be cast on the crystal to identify what element it would react with. Casting the right element revealed the door, bringing the party to Luna's shrine and adding her to the party of spirits.

Square-Enix's Masaru Oyamada, producer of Secret of Mana, told us that the game is looking to its roots in the remake. I asked him if the game's eccentricities, like fighting Santa Claus, still come through in the remake and Oyamada assured me they would.  Other ones, like the infamous magic book with a nude drawing in it, would not survive a modern ratings board.

Secret of Mana will release on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC on February 15. Oyamada told me that the game was in planning before they knew about the Switch, but do not rule it out for the future.

Categories: Games

Celeste Review: More Than Just A Great Platformer

Gamespot News Feed - Thu, 01/25/2018 - 20:00

Spoilers for Celeste are contained in this review. While no specific plot details are mentioned, overall themes and mechanics that you may not be aware of are discussed. Celeste is a wonderful, surprising game, and I think it's best experienced without prior knowledge of its themes. Hence, if you want to go in completely fresh, go and play Celeste before reading this review. Otherwise, carry on to find out why this game is worth your time.

Despite appearances, Celeste is much more than a game about climbing a mountain. Celeste is a game framed around a challenging platformer but containing a powerful tale of recognizing, dealing with, and attempting to overcome mental illness. Parts of Celeste are challenging to play--in both its gameplay difficulty and its subject matter--but it is a memorable experience worth seeing through.

Playing as a nervous young explorer named Madeline, you're on a self-imposed mission centered around climbing the titular mountain, Celeste. You're warned from the outset that the mountain is a strange place, that you might see things you're not ready to see, but that it will show you who you really are. While the adventure starts relatively simply--jump this gap, grab this ledge, gather this collectible--the mountain soon lives up to its otherworldly billing by realizing Madeline's mental health issues.

Her anxiety and depression are personified into an alternate version of her, simply named Part of Me, that exists purely to place doubt in her mind, to confuse her, and to tell her she cannot succeed. This occurs both in dialogue and in gameplay, where Part of Me often acts as the primary antagonist. However, Part of Me isn't doing this out of spite; she argues she's trying to save Madeline from what she perceives as certain death--Madeline is not a mountain climber, after all.

Madeline meets other characters along the way whose own issues manifest themselves in-game as physical prisons from which you must escape or enemies you must defeat. Rarely do games tie themes and mechanics together so well; combined with a sometimes crippling difficulty level, they accentuate the feeling that you, the player, are on a struggle of your own, as well as enhancing your level of empathy towards Madeline. Seeing her suffer is difficult to handle, and it's impossible to watch it happen without thinking of your own problems, but that--plus the brilliant merging of gameplay and narrative--is what makes Celeste so emotionally powerful.

Parts of Celeste are challenging to play--in both its gameplay difficulty and its subject matter--but it is a memorable experience worth seeing through.

The only disappointing aspect of this translation of mental struggle into play is a clumsy addition of a new movement mechanic towards the story's end. The new mechanic itself is utilized intelligently for the remainder of the campaign, but the way in which it's added--at a key moment in the plot--somewhat weakens one of the story's most powerful elements. The finale itself, however, is a wonderfully understated and fitting conclusion that I won't spoil here.

Save for that heavy-handed development, Celeste grows graciously over the course of the roughly seven-hour campaign. It starts off as a slow, traditional platformer, but as new mechanics are added and as your own skills develop, it becomes an intricate, breakneck dance. You might have to jump around one set of spikes, dash over a pit, bounce off the back wall, leap through a warp panel, and fly to the next platform, all without a safe spot to land. But even though each step is tricky, checkpoints are frequent enough (and restarts instant enough) that failure never becomes too frustrating, all while the difficulty is sufficiently high to make success satisfying. I died 975 times, but none of those casualties felt unfair, and almost every one taught me something new. Even though Celeste doesn't introduce any mechanics that haven't been seen in other games, its platforming is wonderfully refined and inventive--often leaving me puzzled as to how I'll ever succeed, only for the solution to suddenly enter my head--and it's all contained within a campaign unlike anything else.

After the credits roll, Celeste offers more for those who want to relive the journey. Aside from the usual collectibles scattered in various hidden or hard-to-reach locations, there are also a set of unlockable reworked levels, dubbed B-Sides. Be warned, however: these offer some of the most difficult sequences in the game, and like an unfathomable post-game that offers a locked door with seemingly no way in, they lie unfinished on my level select screen.

Finally, Celeste's sheer beauty is worth mentioning. Its colorful 8-bit style will be familiar to those who played developer Matt Makes Games' previous platforming title, TowerFall: Ascension, but in Celeste that is joined by a cleaner, more modern look that elegantly adorns the game's menus, overworld, and end-of-chapter artwork. In-game, as Madeline's world becomes more twisted and horrific, so do the game's art style and environments: bright blue ice and golden skies turn to blood-red monsters and greying surroundings. The piano and chiptune-heavy soundtrack adapts in a similar fashion, moving from the serene to the spooky at the perfect moment, all while remaining forever catchy.

It's a testament to convincing writing and ingenious design that after playing Celeste I felt like I'd been on the same journey as Madeline. Her struggle is one made easy to empathize with, her low points painful to watch, and her high notes exhilarating to experience. Her tale is delicately told and beautifully illustrated, confidently coalescing with the satisfying, empowering game it lies within. Not bad for a game about climbing a mountain.

Categories: Games